“Antiracist ideas suggest no racial groups are better in any way,” he said. “An antiracist would say some people have more because policies gave them more; some people have less—because of policies, their resources and opportunities have been taken from them. It’s a completely different conception of understanding racial inequity.”
One of America’s leading antiracist voices and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, Kendi discussed themes from his books, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” and the recently released “How to Be an Antiracist.”
Kendi placed the country’s current racial climate in historical context, outlining the policies—including slavery, Jim Crow segregation and mass incarceration—that have created racial inequities. He argued that policies should be assessed by their outcomes rather than by their intent.
“Once we recognize that there’s nothing wrong with the racial groups, and we look out at racial inequities and disparities in our society, then we begin to ask the question, ‘What is the real cause of all the inequities and disparities?’” he said. “And the only other explanation has always been racist policy.”
Following his presentation, Kendi answered questions from attendees about the definition of racism; standardized testing; introducing lessons on race to children; the economic impacts of racism; and the importance of youth engagement. He also signed copies of “How to Be an Antiracist.”
Kendi’s visit opened the 2019-20 slate of speakers for the Nazarian lecture series, a key feature of the Equity & Justice Institute. Upcoming engagements include presentations by Winona LaDuke (Oct. 14), Zenon Neumark (Dec. 17) and Robin DiAngelo (March 4, 2020) as well as an environmental justice symposium (April 22, 2020). All of these events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit xrds.org/speakerseries.